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Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best drawing tablets

Artists need to be unafraid of mistakes because nestled within daring is where you find brilliance. A drawing tablet is a tool that encourages a fearless approach to creativity. The best models not only capture the moment but allow the artist to effortlessly delete inspired strokes that didn't quite work out.

A comfortable wireless stylus and a highly responsive, pressure-sensitive surface are two essential elements you need to be happy with your drawing tablet. High resolution, an expanse of colors, and absolute positioning also rank highly among desirable features. Additionally, you'll need software that can take full advantage of all the features your drawing tablet has to offer.

drawing tablets
Some tablets are designed for right- or left-handed people only, but most can accommodate both righties and lefties.

While anyone interested in creating art might use a drawing tablet, these handy devices are most commonly used by digital illustrators, photo editors, and calligraphers. Digital illustrators use tablets to create original and graphic art, photo editors use them to touch up photos and make pixel-perfect adjustments, and calligraphers and hand-letterers use them to easily practice their creative penmanship.

Key drawing tablet features

Stylus

The stylus, or pen, is a key component of the drawing tablet. Some pens are wired to the tablet; others are wireless. You’ll always know where a wired stylus is, but a wireless pen gives you far more flexibility of movement.

Some styluses run on battery power, while a wired stylus might be powered by the tablet itself. Though the battery-powered pen may provide a few more features, a battery-free stylus is lighter and easier to use.

Shortcut buttons

Sometimes referred to as shortcut keys or express keys, these are most commonly physical buttons located on the frame around the screen. Different models of drawing tablets offer a variety of shortcut button configurations.

Consider how you plan to use the drawing tablet. Then, look for button designs that can help you work efficiently.

Expert TIp
Stylus nibs can wear out over time, so keep some extra on hand.
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Colors

The best tablets are able to display at least 16.7 million colors, and the most expensive boast 1.07 billion. Lower-quality tablets offer a lower maximum number of colors, but at least 16.7 million are needed for creating precise graphics. If you’re not creating documents or drawings that require that level of precision, you can save a bit with a lower number of colors.

Connectivity

Modern drawing tablets provide a variety of connection options. USB cable is the most common method of connecting to a computer, but some units also offer WiFi, Bluetooth, and HDMI connectivity.

Pressure sensitivity

One of the key benefits of drawing tablets is that most of them include terrific palm recognition, so the cursor and focus are never accidentally misinterpreted. Palm recognition is one of the big differentiators from touchscreen tablets with glass screens, which often misinterpret palm contact as input.

To provide a realistic interpretation of the artist’s work, a drawing tablet must also be able to differentiate between light and heavy pressure from fingers or a pen. Also called pen pressure, this feature determines how light, bold, thick, or thin lines are when drawn on the tablet's screen.

Most drawing tablets can distinguish 1,024 levels of pressure. Some can determine up to 2,048 different levels. Additionally, not all tablets recognize finger touches; some require the use of a pen.

If you want touch capability, be sure the tablet you choose includes this feature, which is typically referred to as multi-touch.

Resolution

The resolution of a graphics tablet is a little different from the resolution of a computer screen or television. Tablets are rated in lines per inch, or LPI. The higher the LPI measurement, the better resolution the tablet will have. Resolution for some tablets will be rated in dots per inch, more like a TV screen resolution.

Size

Drawing tablets are available in many sizes. Smaller tablets are designed for portability, meaning it’s easy for artists to take them anywhere. They are also suitable for young budding artists that don't need a huge screen. Larger tablets are intended for use on a desktop. If you have a studio where you do a lot of work, a large, stationary tablet can be a nice option.

Expert Tip
A good tablet will work with any operating system. Always double-check to make sure that the tablet you’re getting supports the computer you’re using just to be safe.
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Battery life

Battery life is an important consideration of standalone drawing tablets that work without being connected to a computer. Although standard tablets typically get longer battery life than drawing tablets, quality standalone models get at least four hours of operation per battery charge.

Types of drawing tablets

Drawing tablets differ from all-purpose tablets such as iPads, the Kindle Fire, Amazon Fire Tablets, and Samsung Galaxy Tabs. Sure, you could download an app that allows you to draw on an iPad, but a drawing tablet is designed specifically for creating art. It offers an extensive set of drawing tools and features — many more than you’d find in a drawing app.

Pricier drawing tablets allow you to draw directly on the display screen. Cheaper drawing tablets don’t offer a display. Instead, you connect these tablets to a computer. You draw on the surface of the graphics tablet, and your art appears on the computer screen. Since you look at the computer screen rather than the drawing surface, these types of tablets can be a little awkward to use until you’ve practiced a bit.

Other key differentiators of drawing tablet types include pressure sensitivity, price, display colors, and display resolution.

Beginner tablets

Most beginner-level drawing tablets cost less than $75. At this level, they may be more appropriate as a toy for children than a tool for serious artists. However, you can find decent tablets for artists at this price level.

One reason beginner tablets cost less is that they typically offer low pressure sensitivity. They may be limited to 512 or fewer levels of sensitivity. With less-precise sensitivity measurements, a beginner tablet may not produce the most realistic results.

Also, beginner tablets don’t have built-in screens. You must connect a beginner tablet to a computer.

Expert Tip
If you’ll be using your drawing tablet for extended periods of time, make sure you have proper wrist support. Consider getting a wrist pad or similar to avoid risks like Carpal Tunnel syndrome.
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Mid-level tablets

Mid-level tablets offer a maximum resolution of 5,080 lines per inch.

A mid-level tablet recognizes at least 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity.

You’ll spend at least $75 for a mid-level tablet, with a maximum price tag of around $400.

Like the beginner tablet, most mid-level tablets do not include a display screen. Instead, you must connect the tablet to a computer. But a few mid-level drawing tablets do offer a display screen, allowing you to draw directly on the display. These tend to sit at the higher end of the price range.

Professional tablets

Professional-level tablets must be able to measure at last 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. They also offer a minimum of 16.7 million individual display colors and a minimum screen resolution of 5,000 lines per inch.

Models in this category may offer additional user-friendly features, such as a pen that has an eraser function and multi-touch technology that allows artists to use their fingers on the drawing pad surface.

Professional tablets typically cost a minimum of $400. These tablets are much more likely to include a built-in display screen than beginner-level tablets and mid-level tablets. Industrial units tend to cost $2,000 or more.

They may be built to withstand harsh conditions or feature larger sizes than other drawing tablets.

drawing tablets
Testing drawing tablets
 We spent 8 hours researching 116 different drawing tablets before choosing our top 5 options. We then tested our number one choice in the BestReviews lab with our designer.
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Accessories

Tablet stand: Parblo PR 100 Universal Tablet Stand
This affordable tablet stand has anti-slip rubber on the bottom to help safeguard the artist’s work. If you’re looking for a convenient way to prop up your tablet while drawing, reading, or browsing, consider this lightweight, portable choice.

Carrying case: Higotech Drawing Tablet Case
This neat little case comes in several color choices and provides a protective shield for your artistic investment. Potential buyers should note the dimensions of the case and compare them to the dimensions of their tablet before ordering.

drawing tablets
Serious artists will want a tablet with high pressure sensitivity. High-sensitivity tablets will more realistically interpret the artist’s actions.

FAQ

Q. What are the top drawing tablet brands?

A. Wacom is the best-known drawing tablet manufacturer, offering dozens of models. A few other brands worth considering include Huion, Turcom, Boogie Board, and Ugee.

Q. Can some regular tablets be used as drawing tablets?

The short answer is yes. Although they don't offer the same features that most artists prefer, some Android tablets are compatible with styluses to create a drawing tablet experience. Additionally, the Apple iPad Pro also works like a drawing tablet when paired with the Apple Pencil. However, for the serious artist who wants to create exceptional graphic designs, a true drawing tablet is the best option.

Q. What is meant by “absolute positioning” on a drawing tablet?

A. “Absolute positioning” refers to the point of contact on the drawing tablet relative to the location on the computer screen. When a tablet offers absolute positioning and the stylus is placed in the upper right corner, the cursor on the computer monitor appears in the same spot. On the other hand, a computer mouse uses relative positioning. The mouse could be located at the edge of the mouse pad while the cursor appears anywhere on the computer screen.

Q. Can I purchase extra pens for my drawing tablet?

A. Most manufacturers offer extra pens for purchase. You should also be able to buy extra nibs. The nib is the rubbery point that makes contact with the drawing surface. Over time, the nib can wear down or break. You can replace the nib yourself with the right tools.

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